A priceless case which includes relics of nine Orthodox Christian saints was returned to Cyprus‘ Orthodox Church recently, and it was exhibited before the public on Thursday.
The wooden and leather case, which looks like a book, was stolen from the city of Morphou, in the island’s North, which has been illegally occupied by Turkey since 1974. It somehow ended up in the ownership of a German icon collector, who recently placed it for sale at an auction house in Duesseldorf, Germany.
The box contains relics of saints, and by under longstanding custom items such as these should never be sold. The remains are believed to belong to St. Mamas and other saints who died in antiquity, and their relics had been kept ever since then at the church of St. Mamas in Morphou, in occupied northern Cyprus.
When the directors of the German auction house realized the importance of the case and the shameful way in which it had been looted by unknown people from the occupied Cypriot lands, they decided to buy the case themselves.
The auction house then contacted the Cypriot authorities and later handed the priceless item over to them.
Speaking with the Cypriot News Agency, the director of the House, Susan Hargehseimer, explained how she and her husband Frank decided to pay from their own personal funds in order to buy the priceless religious object and offer it to Cyprus’ Metropolis of Morfou.
”Art is very important for people, their history, their civilization and their identity,” the German director stated.
The auction house realized that they shouldn’t continue with the auction only when Maria Pafiti, a Cypriot art specialist and critic, discovered the actual origins of the wooden box. She immediately contacted the auction house, and its directors made the very generous decision not only to stop the auction, but to buy the case themselves and hand it over to Cyprus.
Countless priceless historic and religious artifacts from the north of Cyprus have been looted, lost or even deliberately destroyed since Turkey invaded the island in 1974.
A recent British report highlighted the magnitude of this disaster in regard to the Christian communities of the occupied lands and the loss of their heritage.